called to edify

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Civil Disobedience

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What have I lost? There have been many failings and falterings of the state in my memory. The war in Viet Nam, Watergate, Mutual Assured Destruction, etc. So the current climate of multiple foreign wars, NSA spying, IRS abuses, and the rest are not new. For some reason, I was patriotic and patient in my youth. I spent six years in the U.S. Navy, joined a political party, and sang patriotic songs at church. I don’t know that the state had a better or worse reputation 20 or 30 years ago than it does today, but my feeling was that I had a stake in a better tomorrow, that I should want a more honest system in which to live and into which I would be sending my children. So perhaps that is what I have lost, that feeling of being part of something, of having a stake in the future.

Another thing lost to me in recent years is the feeling that obeying the laws, staying out of trouble, is of great value. Perhaps I just mistook freedom from incarceration as liberty. I was very mistaken. More often than I would care to admit, there are cases where liberty would be best served by civil disobedience. Now I’m not talking about ignoring speed limits or smoking pot or going naked in public. I don’t mean silly, selfish things for which I’d be a fool to compromise even the comfort of my family. Nor am I thinking of burning cars or poisoning the watering hole or throwing fire bombs at police. Harming persons or damaging private property is just angry and out of control, and therefore indefensible.

The instances that I foresee requiring my refusal to participate surround acquiescing to unconstitutional laws. If a rule or law seeks to bar consensual exchange between two private parties, such as a farmer selling raw milk to those specifically seeking it or the loaning or selling of a firearm to a neighbor within the same county, the law is unsupportable. Or if excessive restrictions are put on the use of private property, such as is now common practice with the E.P.A., then human rights are under attack. And, unfortunately, I’m beginning to come to terms with the fact that way too much is being done by the state in my name with my money. Stealing money from one citizen to bestow it on another (or on a corporation, or foreign nation) is not just unsupported by the U.S. Constitution, but is a practice specifically intended to be guarded against. When such theft was a minority proportion of the expenditures of the state, I felt that refusing to support the system would be akin to throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Now that the majority of the budget of the state is one or another form of transfer payment, I no longer see that there is any baby to be saved.

Sorry to for the anticlimax, but I am not going to offer my ideas about what to do. Not yet. There are one or two more topics to cover before we discuss strategy for the future.